Five Things in Four Years: A Cranbrook Goodbye*

I’m not a hugely sentimental person, but I am a nostalgic one (I swear, there’s a difference). As I leave Cranbrook after four years here to embark on the next phase of my career, I can’t help but think about all the different places on campus I will miss. Here are my top five:

Cranbrook House, 1925.  Cranbrook Archives.

Cranbrook House, 1925. Cranbrook Archives.

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Photo Friday: Cranbrook’s Contractor

Wermuth House, Fort Wayne, Indiana.  Designed by Eliel and Eero Saarinen, 1941. Cranbrook Archives.

Wermuth House, Fort Wayne, Indiana. Designed by Eliel and Eero Saarinen, 1941. Cranbrook Archives.

This distinctly modern house was designed by the architecture firm Saarinen, Swanson & Saarinen for a man whose introduction to Cranbrook happened in a somewhat old-fashioned way—the construction of Christ Church Cranbrook, George Booth’s ecclesiastical ode to the British Arts and Crafts Movement.

In 1923, Albert Charles (A.C.) Wermuth was contracted by the architect Bertram Goodhue to oversee construction of the Trinity English Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  Goodhue was so impressed with his construction work that he contracted with Wermuth again for the upcoming Christ Church Cranbrook commission in 1924.  Goodhue died before construction on the church could begin in 1925, but the firm Goodhue & Associates retained Wermuth as general contractor for the project.

When Christ Church Cranbrook was completed in 1927, the Booths immediately snatched up A.C. Wermuth for more Cranbrook projects—the building of the Cranbrook School campus and an addition to Brookside.  Thus began a decades-long professional relationship between Wermuth and Cranbrook, with Wermuth serving as general contractor for Kingswood, the Cranbrook Academy of Art, and the Cranbrook Institute of Science.  Wermuth also did private work for the Booth children as they built their own homes in the area.  Eliel and Eero Saarinen used Wermuth for their non-Cranbrook projects as well; he served as contractor on the First Christian Church in Columbus, Indiana, as well as on other Saarinen buildings.

With professional connections like these, it seems only fitting that Wermuth turned to the Saarinens when it was time for him to build his own house in Fort Wayne. While the Wermuth House, which was completed in 1941, was built under the names of both Eliel and Eero, the design of the house speaks a bit more to the son than the father.  A Saarinen, Swanson, & Saarinen project, however, Wermuth ended up with a home for his family that expressed many of the same modernist ideals that he himself helped bring to life as the general contractor for Cranbrook.

Shoshana Resnikoff, Collections Fellow, and Robbie Terman, Archivist

Cartoons and Crusades: Booth, Herter, and the Making of a Tapestry

If you’ve ever visited the Cranbrook House library, you’ve probably noticed The Great Crusade, a large tapestry hanging on the south wall.  Many people associate tapestries with medieval times, when they were used to keep drafty castles warm in winter.  Woven wall hangings were also popular as decorations, especially as a sign of wealth since the extensive labor and pricy materials made tapestries more expensive to produce than paintings.  While most of the tapestries that adorn Cranbrook House are fifteenth-century Flemish, The Great Crusade is a toddler; though it utilizes a historic technique, it was designed and produced in the early twentieth century.

Herter Looms, The Great Crusade, 1920.  Cranbrook Art Museum.

Herter Looms, The Great Crusade, 1920. Cranbrook Art Museum.

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Photo Friday: Twisted Sister

In the summer of 1911, the Booth clan left Cranbrook, headed for a European vacation.  The family traveled via New York, where they boarded the RMS Olympic, part of the White Star Line and sister ship to the Titanic. Designed as a luxury ship, many of the features on the Olympic were identical to the more famous Titanic The Olympic had its maiden voyage on June 14, 1911, arriving in New York on June 21, 1911.  The captain of its first voyage was none other than Edward Smith, who would lose his life aboard the Titanic one year later.  The ship’s return trip to England left June 28, 1911, carrying the Booths.  Another famous passenger on board was ship designer Thomas Andrews, who would also later perish on Titanic.

RMS Olympic

The RMS Olympic arrives in Southampton on July 5, 1911. Cranbrook Archives

In April of 1912, the Olympic was one of the ships that received the distress call from Titanic, but it was too far to help in the rescue.  The Olympic offered to take on survivors, but was turned down, as it was thought that passengers would panic at having to board a ship that was a mirror-image to the Titanic.

After the Titanic disaster, the Olympic had to be refitted, as it, too, did not carry enough life boats for all the passengers.

~Robbie Terman, Archivist

Photo Friday: Detroit Society of Arts & Crafts

George Booth’s devotion to the ideals of the Arts & Crafts Movement was evident in the early buildings of Cranbrook (Cranbrook House, the Greek Theatre, Brookside, Christ Christ Church Cranbrook). One of the hallmarks of the movement was to support living, working artists.  Enter the Detroit Society of Arts & Crafts (DSAC). Founded in 1906, the DSAC provided an environment where artists, craftsmen, architects, and designers could share ideas and coordinate activities to raise the level of American craftsmanship. Out of their showroom, works by nearly every major craftsman active in Europe and America were exhibited and sold. George Booth was not only one of the founders of the DSAC, but also its first president.

Watson Street Showroom

Detroit Society of Arts & Crafts Watson Street Showroom. Cranbrook Archives

George Booth was also a great supporter of the DSAC and filled his home with items he purchased or commissioned.  A collection of those objects is currently on display at Cranbrook House in an exhibit titled, “Crafting a Life: George Gough Booth and the Detroit Society of Arts & Crafts.

~Robbie Terman, Archivist

Photo Friday: Who’s That Man?

It’s Arthur Nevill Kirk! Wooed by George Booth, the famed silversmith arrived at Cranbrook in 1927 to head the metals department at the Academy of Art. Kirk also taught at the Art School of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts and Cranbrook School for Boys. His specialty was the design and execution of ecclesiastical silver, of which Cranbrook still has many pieces in its collection.  During the Great Depression, lack of funds curtailed the use of precious metals and the department closed in 1933. Kirk went on the help establish the Artisans’ Guild, and organized the metal department at Wayne State University in Detroit, where he taught until his retirement in 1957.

~Robbie Terman, archivist

Arthur Nevill Kirk. Cranbrook Archives.

Arthur Nevill Kirk at work. Cranbrook Archives

Photo Friday: Before Booths

Did you know that Bloomfield is one of the oldest townships in Michigan?  Originally part of a larger piece of land known as Oakland, in 1820 the southern portion was designated as Bloomfield. Long before George and Ellen Booth purchased the property known as Cranbrook, Amasa Bagley was already on the scene.  Arriving to the area in 1819 (when Woodward Avenue was still known as an Indian passage called Saginaw Trail!), Bagley quickly became a community leader. A farmer by trade, he was appointed the first judge of Oakland County, and helped to establish the area’s first bank. Perhaps his most significant contribution of the time – opening the town tavern! Built in 1833, the Bagley Inn was used not only to quench the thirst of locals, but also as a public house for political gatherings. Located at the corner of Long Lake and Woodward, the building still exists today.

~Robbie Terman, archivist

Portrait of Amasa Bagley. Cranbrook Archives.

Portrait of Amasa Bagley. Cranbrook Archives.

Photo Friday: A Quiet Force

She was petite and reserved, the constant helpmate of her husband George Booth, but Ellen Scripps Booth (1863-1948) was a powerhouse in her own right. It was Ellen who insisted that a girl’s school be built so that her granddaughters could get a good education. In January 1928, Ellen gifted $200,000 to the Cranbrook Foundation for the building of Kingswood School for Girls. She would later contribute more to ensure the project reached completion.

Known for her modesty, strong religious values, and devotion to her family, Ellen was a steadfast force in the Cranbrook community, and beyond.

~Robbie Terman, archivist

Ellen Scripps Booth, c.1914. Cranbrook Archives

Ellen Scripps Booth, c.1914. Cranbrook Archives

Photo Friday: Days of Yore

The year was 1918, fourteen years after George and Ellen Booth purchased the property they called Cranbrook.  The lay of the land was far different from the lush greenery, grading hillsides, and bountiful gardens which exist today.  An estimated 150,000 trees were planted during George’s lifetime, a testament to his devotion to the Arts & Crafts ideal of surrounding one’s self with nature.  Buildings during this time were scarce; in this aerial view, the only two existing Cranbrook buildings seen are Cranbrook House (top middle) and the Meeting House (middle left), which would later become Brookside Lower School.  The house seen in the lower left, called Edgevale, was the home of George’s cousin, Clarence Booth.

~Robbie Terman, archivist

Intersection of Lone Pine and Cranbrook Roads, c1917. Cranbrook Archives

Intersection of Lone Pine and Cranbrook Roads, c1917. Cranbrook Archives

Photo Friday: The Man Behind the Camera

For nearly thirty years, a stocky man with his trademark black mustache and the nickname “chief mug-taker” was a ubiquitous figure around Cranbrook. He was Harvey Croze, and he served as the official Cranbrook Foundation photographer from 1943-1970. Croze started his career in the darkrooms of Chrysler and General Motors, later studying under Ansel Adams. As chief photographer, Croze was a fixture at all Cranbrook institutions, snapping shots at everything from Cranbrook School for Boys sports games to the Academy of Art studios to the Institute of Science exhibitions and beyond. An award-winning photographer whose photographs have appeared worldwide, Croze will forever be remembered at Cranbrook as the man who captured history in the lens of his Leica.

~Robbie Terman, archivist

Cranbrook photographer, Harvey Croze. Cranbrook Archives

Cranbrook photographer Harvey Croze. Cranbrook Archives

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